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Heartburn (cont.)

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Heartburn Diagnosis

Heartburn is a common complaint, though it can be confused with other chest-related illnesses, including:

The diagnosis begins with a complete history and physical examination. In many cases that provides enough information for the health care professional to make the diagnosis and begin a treatment plan. In some instances, further testing may be required:

X-ray: The patient may be asked to swallow barium or Gastrografin (two types of contrast materials) while a radiologist, using an X-ray or fluoroscopy machine, watches the contrast material travel down the esophagus and enter into the stomach. Aside from looking for irregularities or inflammation within the esophagus and of the esophageal walls, this test can determine if the esophagus muscles are working properly in a rhythmic fashion to push the contrast material into the stomach.

Endoscopy: In this test a gastroenterologist uses a flexible scope and with a fiberoptic camera to look at the lining of the esophagus and stomach. Inflammation and ulcers can be identified. Biopsies and small bits of tissue can be obtained to look for cancerous or pre-cancerous cells.

Manometry and pH testing: Less commonly, when conventional therapy has failed to confirm the diagnosis, or when symptoms are atypical, use of pressure monitors and acid measurements from within the esophagus may be helpful in making the diagnosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/13/2013


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